2019 Royals Farm Report Prospect Rankings: 15-11

Happy New Year and welcome back! We have now been writing about the Royals farm system for 18 months and it’s only going to get better from here. We started off our original prospect rankings with 30, expanded to 100, and now we’re coming back to earth a bit. Are there 100 worthy names in the Kansas City Royals system? Absolutely. Are there always 100 names worthy of being on the list…well…

So here we go. The Kansas City Royals top 75 prospects as brought to you by six members of your Royals Farm Report staff. Joel, Drake, Drew, Josh, Pat, and I voted on our top 75 Royals prospects and then ran a collective ranking. We will release five prospects a day, starting with 75, working our way down to #5 where our top 5 prospects will all get their own article. So, without further ado, here we go!

15. Carlos Hernandez, RHP

DOB: 3/11/1997 (21 YO)
B/T: R/R
Ht/Wt: 6’4″ 175′
Levels Played, 2018: A
Acquired: International Free Agent
ETA: 2021
2018 Stats: 79.1 IP, 3.29 ERA, 3.57 FIP, 9.3 K/9, 2.61 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9, 41.8% GB%
Projected level to begin 2019: A+

Carlos Hernandez busted onto the prospect scene in 2018 in a big way. After a debut season in 2017 that saw Hernandez post a 5.49 ERA with the Burlington Royals, MLB Pipeline propelled Hernandez into their list of the Royals top 30 prospects. A surprise to some (including us), Hernandez came out in 2018 and was flat out impressive for the Lexington Legends.

Among pitchers to record at least 70 IP in the SALLY in 2018, Hernandez ranked in the top 30 in:

  • K/9
  • K/BB
  • ERA
  • BAA
  • WHIP
  • IFFB%

An all around fantastic performance from the 21-year old that peaked on July 9th when he threw 7 shutout innings and struck out 12 batters. Hernandez flashed pure dominance at times during in 2018, before his season was cut short due to a shoulder injury after his start on August 1st.

Hopefully the shoulder injury was nothing serious and Hernandez was shutdown as a precautionary measure. Assuming he’s healthy leaving Spring Training (I’m not sure how safe that assumption is), Hernandez would report to High-A Wilmington where he’d join a rotation with Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer, and Jackson Kowar, along with potentially Yefri Del Rosario (none of those four guys have appeared on our rankings just yet :)). If he continues to pitch in Wilmington like he did in Lexington, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Hernandez found his way to AA by the end of 2019.

14. Austin Cox, LHP

DOB: 3/28/1997 (21 YO)
B/T: L/L
Ht/Wt: 6’4″ 185′
Levels Played, 2018: Rookie
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
ETA: 2021
2018 Stats: 33.1 IP, 3.78 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 13.77 K/9, 4.05 BB/9, 0.27 HR/9, 38% GB%
Projected level to begin 2019: A

I’m warning you now: make sure you pay attention to Austin Cox in 2019, because he could have a Daniel Lynch style rise through the rankings this year.

Austin Cox has some sick nasty stuff. Among all Royals prospects to record at least 30 IP at any stateside level in 2018, Austin Cox had the highest K/9. This coming off of two consecutive seasons at Mercer in which Cox posted at least 12 K/9 per season, while making 32 total starts. The kid is impressive, so much so that the Royals had him pegged as a late first round or early second round pick and were absolutely thrilled to wind up with him in the 5th.

I’m telling you, 2019 could be a massive year for Cox. If he can ever figure out how to control his walk rate, he could very easily find himself ranked amongst the Lynch’s and Singer’s of the system. He should get a start in Lexington, but I fully expect him to finish 2019 with Wilmington, if not make it all the way to AA.

13. Arnaldo Hernandez, RHP

DOB: 2/9/1996 (22 YO)
B/T: R/R
Ht/Wt: 6’0″ 175′
Levels Played, 2018: A+, AA, AAA
Acquired: International Free Agent
ETA: 2019
2018 Stats (AAA): 58.1 IP, 3.55 ERA, 5.37 FIP, 5.55 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 1.23 HR/9, 36% GB%
Projected level to begin 2019: AAA

Hernandez wasted no time shooting through the minor leagues in 2018. Thanks to some newfound velocity on his fastball, Hernandez made his way from A-ball to AAA in the same season for the second time in two years. He then went down to the Arizona Fall League this past fall to face some of the world’s best hitting prospects and held his own posting a 1.10 ERA in 16.1 IP in relief.

Hernandez finds himself at #13 on our list for a few reasons:

  1. He just finished a season in which he pitched well at both AAA and the AZFL at the age of 22.
  2. The newfound life on his fastball could propel him even further up on our list if he can sustain the new velocity.
  3. Hernandez has a really good chance of pitching in the big leagues in 2019. We don’t typically put too much weight into big league proximity in our rankings, but you could make the argument that Hernandez is the Royals best pitching prospect above A-ball right now, and that means something.

Hernandez could be yet another prospect in out top 20 to debut in Kansas City as soon as 2019. The Royals protected him from the Rule 5 Draft his winter by adding him to the 40-man roster, so that’s no longer holding him back. Assuming he continues to pitch well in Omaha to begin the year, Hernandez could be a fun guy to watch in KC in 2019.

12. Richard Lovelady, LHP

DOB: 7/7/1995 (23 YO)
B/T: L/L
Ht/Wt: 6’0″ 175′
Levels Played, 2018: AAA
Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft
ETA: 2019
2018 Stats: 73 IP, 2.47 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 8.75 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 0.37 HR/9, 49.7% GB%
Projected level to begin 2019: AAA

I’m pretty sure the Royals are going to let Richard Lovelady pitch in the big leagues on of these days. He currently finds himself off of the 40-man roster due to a roster crunch, but that won’t last long. Lovelady is simply too good to be at AAA for long and ought to be pitching in high-leverage situations in Kansas City by the end of May.

As far as his 2018 season goes, Lovelady actually looked human for the first month and a half. Through his first 18 appearances and 23.2 IP, Lovelady’s ERA was 4.56, his K/9 was 6.46, and his BB/9 was 4.56. Then May turned to June and Lovelady decided to kick it up a notch. Over his last 28 appearances spanning 49.1 IP, Lovelady’s ERA dropped to 1.46, his K/9 jumped to 9.85, and his BB/9 dropped down to 1.64. The Richard Lovelady of old was back and better than ever.

We’ve covered Lovelady enough at the site that you should by wholly familiar by now. If you’re wondering why he no longer finds himself in our top 10 prospects list, it’s by no fault of his own. The recent addition of Lynch/Singer/Kowar and Isbel to the system, as well as the impressive rise of Yefri Del Rosario, have created a great core of prospects for Kansas City that simply project to be more valuable than a reliever only. Lovelady may well be the best LH relief prospect in baseball, but the Royals finally have enough prospects to give them a legitimate core.

Richard Lovelady is gonna be a ton of fun to watch when he gets to KC. He’s a great kid that will fit in great to the clubhouse and is dominant on the mound. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll start in KC, but it won’t be long.

11. Kyle Isbel, OF

DOB: 3/3/1997 (21 YO)
B/T: L/R
Ht/Wt: 5’11″ 183′
Levels Played, 2018: Rookie, A
Acquired: 2018 MLB Draft
ETA: 2021
2018 Stats (A): 174 PA, .289/.345/.434/.779, 3 HR, 12 2B, 12 SB, 6.9% BB%, 24.7% K%, 123 wRC+
Projected level to begin 2019: A+

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kyle Isbel forced his way to the big leagues by 2020. I think it’s unlikely, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Isbel exploded onto the prospect scene in 2018 by making a joke of the Pioneer League and then proceeding to help the Lexington Legends win the South Atlantic League title.

Kyle Isbel is everything you want in an outfielder. He plays good defense in CF, he runs well, he has a good arm, he hits for a good average, and his swing would insinuate that there’s more power to come despite his 5′ 11″ frame. After soaring up draft boards at UNLV, Isbel was a God-send to Kansas City in the 3rd round last June.

There are certainly things that Isbel can still work on as well. His BB:K ratio wasn’t ideal upon arriving in Lexington and his .377 BABIP probably isn’t sustainable. But the pros outweigh any concerns there are with Isbel. The kid is legit and gives the Royals yet another option in CF to go along with Michael Gigliotti and Blake Perkins. Hopefully Isbel goes to Wilmington to begin 2019 and tears it up (he will) so I can watch him play in person with NWA (I will).

 

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10 thoughts on “2019 Royals Farm Report Prospect Rankings: 15-11

  1. I thought you were going to have an all pitching 5 there. Who snuck Isbel in to the mix. Or is he about to become a 2 way player like Cowart?

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